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Court orders new trial for man convicted of murdering baby

Appellate court: Right to open trial was violated
Published: 8/27/13 @ 12:05


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

Youngstown

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to death for killing a baby in 2003 in the Lincoln Knolls area of the East Side.

The court ruled 2-1 in an opinion released Monday that John Drummond, 36, who also is on trial in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court for a 1997 murder, was denied a fair trial in February 2004 because former Judge Maureen Cronin of the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas closed the courtroom for part of the trial.

That violated Drummond’s Sixth Amendment rights under the Constitution to have an open trial, the circuit court said.

Drummond was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death for the murder of Jiyen Dent, 3 months, who was killed inside the Rutledge Drive home of his parents March 24, 2003, as they were unpacking boxes because they had recently moved there. The baby was hit with an AK-47 round in the head while he was in a swing and killed instantly.

Prosecutors at trial said Drummond, a member of an East Side gang, thought the baby’s father was responsible for the death of one of his friends in 1998.

At two points during the trial, Judge Cronin closed the courtroom because she said some of the jurors and witnesses felt threatened by some of the spectators in the courtroom.

Media members were allowed in to watch and record the proceedings, but the courtroom was cleared of all spectators, including family members. At the time, Drummond’s lawyer, James Gentile, objected, saying that Drummond was entitled to a public trial under the Constitution.

In 2011, Judge Sara Lioi of the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio voided Drummond’s conviction and death sentence because of the same issue. The state attorney general’s office appealed to the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati and it ordered a new trial. That order was stayed while the attorney general’s office appealed.

A message was left asking if the attorney general’s office plans to appeal the Sixth Circuit’s ruling. A spokeswoman said in an email that all options are being explored, but no decision has been made at this time.

Drummond was indicted in Ashtabula County in January in the death of a man in 1997 over missing money. His trial began last week.


Comments


Posted by kensgirl (anonymous) on August 27, 2013 at 9:25 a.m.

Hail to our justice system. This guy needs put away for good and fast.


Posted by Nom_De_Plume (anonymous) on August 27, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.

Hey, Joe Gorman. Why don't you call Gains at home, wake him up, and ask him about this ruling? Even money says he has no clue. His office is atrocious and now the family of a slain baby will have to re-live this nightmare. In true Gains fashion, he will point the finger at former-judge Cronin but the fault lies with his office. Wonder what they will plea bargain Drummond's case to under these circumstances?


Posted by NoBS (anonymous) on August 27, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.

This is ridiculous. Here's the newest way to delay the sentence, or maybe get it overturned, and ultimately waste the court's time and the peoples' money. Just get your buddies (or homies) to disrupt the court and make threats against the jury. Then when the judge deals with the disruption, you have the basis for a retrial. How shameful!!


Posted by southsidedave (anonymous) on August 27, 2013 at 3:37 p.m.

He will most likely receive a life sentence ...a real dirtbag of society.


Posted by truthvalley (anonymous) on August 27, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.

Nom_de_Plume, how is this Gains fault? I know you have a problem with him, but the story clearly states the error was made by the judge who closed the courtroom to the public. It wasn't the prosecutor who closed the courtroom. Even if you don't like Gains, at least assign the blame to the correct person.


Posted by Nom_De_Plume (anonymous) on August 28, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

@truthvalley...

Make no mistake, my dislike and lack of respect for Gains did not cloud my comment. I'm not saying Cronin isn't blameless but it was his office that raised the issue of intimidation and set things into motion. His office did nothing on the record to justify the closure and the defense attorney's instincts to make an objection has now led to the reversal of his conviction and death sentence. So, with that in mind, I hope you can now see how his office - and, ultimately him - are responsible. (Not to mention that I believe this is the second time a murder case has been reversed for courtroom closure. But, that case is escaping me at the moment.) Gains is simply the worst elected official we have.